Papua drowning in misery

Natalius Pigai
Defender of the Weak

IO – Whenever we discuss Papua, we tend to associate this region with violence, stupidity, nakedness and poverty. Papua seems to be synonymous with a world of darkness, problems and troubles that threaten our national integrity. Every day, it is hard to find news about the achievements, successes, and hope for the future for Papua – things that would enable a better life, one that is safe, secure, and prosperous – in the national mass media. If this negative view of Papua is based on reality, who must be held responsible for this backwardness, stupidity, and poverty?

I notice that efforts to integrate Papua into Indonesia were based on warlike military repression, in a “Triple Command of the People” (Tri Komando Rakyat – “TRIKORA”). This campaign was clearly meant to integrate Papua’s natural resources as part of Indonesia’s asset, while leaving the Papuans themselves miserable, sitting on their land’s natural abundance. This approach is completely against the wishes of Ir. Soekarno, our first President, who wanted to liberate Papuans as citizens of Indonesia and allow them to become masters over their own lands.

It is this idea that encourages me to express my intention to assume a comprehensive view of the Papua issue. Even though we have granted “Special Autonomy” to Papua, tragedy after tragedy continues to add to its sorrows: so many screams, moans, and lamentations rise up to the Heavens because of daily kidnappings and murders by mysterious cliques. Troops with long-barreled guns march day after day, from noon to night. The “sympathetic” attempt to hush things down by granting Special Autonomy on Christmas Day, by making it seem like a “Christmas gift”, is an insult to the nature of gift-giving to the holidays. After all, West Papua is a wounded and miserable region, a victim in the grip of capitalism, followed by the thrust of politics. It is prey to both military and civilian hegemony.

If the Government honestly seeks to resolve the Papua issue comprehensively and thoroughly, it should stop the move of all colonialist systems, including border expansion. It would be better if the Government does something to resolve Papua’s two basic problems:

First, human rights issues. We need to review historical realities that include human right violations, including racism, and make proper political, social, and ethical reparations.

Second, we need to resolve the great disparity between this region and others in the country, especially in terms of socio-economic capacity and prosperity.

Traumatic Scars
Political conflict in Papua did not just occur randomly, like a bolt out of the blue. It has deep historic roots in colonial abuse. Papua has a long history of colonialism, starting from an era of Dutch imperialism to one of [perceived] Indonesian exploitation. Political integration of this region into our country remains shaky at least, looking back to the claims of both Indonesia and the Netherlands, whether through diplomatic channels or outright military confrontation, were actually concluded without considering the needs of Papuans themselves. Neither the Dutch’s economic interests nor the Indonesian interest of restricting international communist ideology in the closely positioned geographical area finds sympathy in the heart of Papuans. They were never involved in political integration: in any discussion and decision-making, they are treated as objects, not subjects.

Adding insult to injury, Papuans have been deprived of their right as a nation to determine their own fate, with reference to GA Resolution No. 1541 (XV) of 1960. Furthermore, the 1969 “political consensus” action called the “Act of Free Choice” (Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat – “Pepera”) was an ironic play held under Indonesian pressure. It was a “democratic choice” made according to the tenets of Pancasila, i.e. negotiations towards consensus, which differs from the international standard of “one man / one vote” as stipulated in the New York Agreement. At the same time, West Papua has declared its freedom and socialized the symbols of their nation.

Indonesia claims that negotiations towards consensus were carried out without them because Papua’s social, economic, geographic, and cultural lifestyle are too primitive to engage in such matters. This is an outright denial of GA Resolution No. 1514 (XV), which states that colonialization and all of its manifestations must end. Therefore, the excuse of “unpreparedness” due to current political, economic, or social conditions is no reason to delay the freedom of a nation. The people’s disappointment in the proceedings was expressed in the serious threat of the group calling itself the “Free Papua Movement” (Organisasi Papua Merdeka – “OPM”). Since then, the government in Jakarta has exerted great efforts to stabilize the shaky political integration by trapping Papuans in the mire of national hegemony.

There is absolutely no place for Papuans in the legal and official system. This is why throughout the lengthy process of integration with Indonesia the people of Papua rebelled through riots, vandalism, murders and hostage-taking, resisting migrants from outside of Papua. As the brown-skinned people of Papua are not truly acknowledged as an integral part of Indonesia’s political unity, they resorted to this violence in Wamena and other regions. This was the expression of long pent-up historical disappointments, hatred, and trauma of Papuans in relation to the state, nation, and government of Indonesia.

Therefore, I propose that we should give the option to the people of West Papua to prove how far they are willing to go in this direction. It would be an effort to uphold fairness and democracy that would earn us sympathy from the rest of the world. For example, we see how Canada recognizes the French-speaking people among their citizens, and allows them the freedom to speak their language and to have it spoken as an official language equal to English. This move earns Canada the respect of the world, as the French Canadian do not feel the need to detach themselves from the country.

Economic and Social Disparities
It is undeniable that Papua is rich in natural resources. Ironically, their people are currently among the poorest people in the world. We generally determine the level of poverty by the use of cheap cloth for kebaya (traditional Javanese costume), but native Papuans are nearly naked and the males even only use koteka (Mountain Papua penis gourd). They live in isolation and remain living as a Stone Age society in the 21st century.

An honest review of our development policy in Papua from the start of the integration shows that it is far from a proper paradigm of “development.” “Development” in Papua is riddled with political intent. This is obvious in the focus of Jakarta government’s development policy in politically advantageous social and economic development. During the transition period (1963-1969), development seemed to be on track with the establishment of schools all over Papua, from kindergartens to colleges (Cendrawasih University), the construction of infrastructure and facilities, and the development of HR, by placing educated elite Papuans in key government posts. However, all socio-economic development was controlled by the military, through its two-pronged adage of “Security and Develop­ment.” The military was the arbiter of all final decisions concerning development. While task force projects with Fundwi and ADB aid were run, in actuality funds were funneled to security and defense purposes. Actual social and economic development was neglected. Therefore, it is no wonder that even now the people of Papua still live under the poverty line.

Such conditions imply that the government has been neglectful in its responsibility for socio-economic development, in order to keep Papua stagnant. There seems to be a deliberate hope that in the future gradual changes in the population will occur as follows: shortened life expectancy, slowed growth rate, increased mortality rate and widespread epidemics. The hidden purpose is to ensure ethnic, cultural, artistic, and even socio-cultural system uniformity in the land. It is a cruel irony that makes our proud motto, “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” or “Unity in Diversity” the stuff of mere legends and imagination in the region, even through the 20th Century and into the 21st. However, we can still achieve a resolution it if we are committed to create meaningful policies and implement them properly.

Goodwill and Political Will Required
“Will Indonesia remain strong?” “Will West Papua last?” These are significant questions related to the political dynamics of the nation. We are suffering serious threats to our integrity, from areas damaged by historical traumas and backward socio-economic conditions. Do we have the goodwill to correct our past and determine proper, timely, and definite policies that may be implemented strictly in order to soothe the people’s sorrows, cries, lamentations, and moans, and provide them with new hope?

Who could ever imagine that the USSR, a superpower that controlled strategic nuclear weaponry, the one that evolved a nuclear deterrent called MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) with its three-pronged TRIAD (trans-continental land ballistic missiles), powerful submarines with nuclear missiles, and strategic bombing armadas), not to speak of other sophisticated and powerful weaponry, could fall to pieces as it did suddenly in the early 1990s?

I believe that Indonesia will face two options in the future. First, Indonesia resets its priorities, becoming a democratic country with a level of liability in terms of political integration. Alternatively, it becomes yet another victim of history in coming ages like its predecessors: Sriwijaya, as the first Archipelagic empire FELL. It was followed by Majapahit, as the second Archipelagic kingdom, which also FELL. After centuries of colonialism, in the middle of the 20th Century a nation with a geographic area that approximates the area of the two countries, GREAT INDONESIA, was proclaimed.

Whether Sriwijaya, Majapahit, or Indonesia Raya, all these could easily become legends and romantic histories for the future grandchildren of an embittered Nusantara.